13 of the Most Endangered Trees in America

Redwood forest with sun beam appearing through trees
Cavan Images / Getty Images

More than 7,400 trees are listed as globally threatened on the IUCN Red List, according to the Global Trees Campaign. Over 1,100 trees are critically endangered. By some estimates, more than 30% of the world's trees worldwide are threatened with extinction—and many of those are in our own backyard.

From the California coast to an Arkansas forest, the U.S. is home to a multitude of threatened and endangered tree species. Their populations have decreased due to disease, insects and pests, development, logging, and more.

Here are 13 types of trees in America with an uncertain future.

1
of 13

Maple-Leaf Oak (Quercus acerifolia)

Aerial view of the tree-dotted Ouachita Mountains

Ken Lund / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Its name says maple but make no mistake: This is an oak tree with maple-tree-shaped leaves. The maple-leaf oak is a rare species that grows only in steep, rocky forests of the Ouachita Mountains in west-central Arkansas and southeast Oklahoma. It's listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List due to habitat degradation, with fewer than 600 individuals left in the wild.

Maple-leaf oak trees grow to 40 or 50 feet tall, those maple-shaped leaves tinted a characteristic yellowish-green.

Nearly one-third of oak tree species are threatened around the world, according to a 2020 report from The Morton Arboretum.

2
of 13

Hawaiʻi Alectryon (Alectryon macrococcus)

Close-up of Alectryon macrococcus leaves

Forest & Kim Starr / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 3.0

The Alectryon macrococcus has been steadily declining due to invasive species, habitat destruction, and fire. Rats and seed-boring insects are known pests as they eat the seeds, according to the University of Hawaii. Grazing cattle or deer have also kept the tree's population limited.

This slow-growing tree is endemic to the Hawaiian islands and listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List. In its name, macrococcus is from the Greek macrococca, which means having large fruit, referring to the large arils this species produces.

3
of 13

Florida Yew (Taxus floridana)

Close-up of Taxus floridana pine needles

Richard Carter / Valdosta State University / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 3.0

There's only one known tiny population of this critically endangered tree species: a nine-square-mile section of ravines and bluffs along the Apalachicola River in northern Florida. Hunting, logging, and human recreational activities are the main culprits for the dwindling number of plants, according to the IUCN Red List.

The United States Botanic Garden, which calls the Florida yew one of the rarest trees in the world, says another reason the trees are endangered is because many are on private land, and endangered species laws do not protect endangered plants on private property.

4
of 13

Two California Redwoods

View of towering, foliage-covered redwoods from below

Wildnerdpix / Shutterstock

You can't get much more American than California's redwood forests, mentioned in the chorus of Woody Guthrie's famous folk song, "This Land Is Your Land." But two redwood species—coast redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens) and giant sequoias (Sequoiadendron giganteum)—are listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List.

Though many of the trees are in protected areas, such as Redwood National Park, the populations continue to decline due to "inadequate regeneration and natural death of (over)mature trees, which are being replaced by other, competing conifers," according to IUCN.

The fast-growing coast redwood is the world's tallest tree species, and the oldest one on record is 2,200 years old. And though giant sequoias, which can grow to over 250 feet tall, still number in the tens of thousands, they were logged extensively in the past and their numbers continue to decline today.

5
of 13

Longleaf Pine (Pinus palustris)

Close-up of pine needles from the longleaf pine tree

Nikolay Kurzenko / Shutterstock

The IUCN lists this species of pine tree native to the Southeast U.S. as endangered, but it says the tree may qualify as critically endangered if the time frame for assessing the threat level were expanded. The declining population of this species is mostly due to logging.

The species became a major forest industry for the region after Europeans settled in the Coastal Plains, the International Conifer Conservation Programme of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh says. "Its wood is used for sawlogs, stage flooring, plywood, pulpwood and produces poles, fence posts, and piling as it makes straight stems largely free of branches when grown in closed stands."

This tree likes a warm, humid climate and tends to hug the coastline but extends into the foothills of the southern Appalachian Mountains.

6
of 13

Fraser Fir (Abies fraseri)

View of Fraser firs overlooking a lake and mountain vista

Gene / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0

That's right, your favorite type of Christmas tree is officially endangered. And while chopping down millions of these trees each year might seem to be the cause, the problem is actually an insect: the balsam woolly Adelgid (Adelges piceae), which came from Europe in the 1950s. Once the tree is infected with the insect, it basically starves. By the 1980s, millions of trees had died.

Today, this species is found toward the top of the Appalachian Mountains in southwestern Virginia, western North Carolina, and eastern Tennessee. Preserving the Fraser fir is critical to the rare animal species that live in those areas and rely on the tree, such as the northern flying squirrel, Weller’s salamander, the spruce-fir moss spider, mountain ash, and rock gnome lichen.

7
of 13

Florida Torreya (Torreya taxifolia)

Close-up of Torreya taxifolia pine needles

Malcolm Manners / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

This is the second Florida-specific tree on the list, as well as the second yew—in fact, this critically endangered tree is also known as the stinking yew because its leaves, when crushed, give off a turpentine odor. These slow-growing trees, which can be 40 feet tall and 20 feet wide, are native to a 40-mile stretch of the Apalachicola River in northern Florida, though they are rarely found in the wild.

The Florida torreya, an evergreen conifer tree, has seen a 98% decline in population since the 1950s, according to the IUCN. Fewer than 600 individual trees remain.

8
of 13

Four-Petal Pawpaw (Asimina tetramera)

Close-up of red fruit of four-petal pawpaw tree

Bob Peterson / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 2.0

There are only about 500 four-petal pawpaws left in the world, and most of them are concentrated in Jonathan Dickinson State Park just north of Palm Beach, Florida. According to the IUCN, which lists it as endangered, the tree is threatened mostly by human intrusions and recreational activities.

The four-petal pawpaw is a member of the custard apple family. The banana-scented fruit that is the pawpaw is one of the largest edible native fruits in North America.

9
of 13

Loulu (Pritchardia kaalae)

Close-up of the palmlike leaves of the Pritchardia kaalae

Magnus Manske / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0

About 200 mature Loulu trees remain in the Waianae Mountains on the Hawaiian island of Oʻahu. One of the threats to the critically endangered palm tree is rodents and other animals that eat its seeds, preventing regeneration, according to the IUCN.

Also known as a wahane, this tree can grow up to 30 feet tall and blooms with yellow flowers in December. According to the University of Hawaii, Loulu means "umbrella," and the tree got its name because the leaves were formerly used as protection from rain or sun.

10
of 13

Gowen Cypress (Hesperocyparis goveniana)

Close-up of the Gowen cypress' pollen cones

John Rusk / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0

Also known as the dwarf cypress and Santa Cruz cypress, fewer than 2,300 individual Gowen cypress trees are found in just five counties in California: Mendocino, Sonoma, Santa Cruz, San Mateo, and Monterey. The IUCN lists the tree as endangered.

These trees are usually around 30 feet tall but can grow much taller if conditions are right. The U.S. Forest Service says the population is declining due to rodents and deer eating seedlings, livestock grazing on them and trampling them, and a deadly fungus called coryneum canker, which spreads from tree to tree through the distribution of spores.

11
of 13

Boynton Oak (Quercus boyntonii)

Close-up of Boynton oak leaves

Bruce Kirchoff / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0

This oak native to The South is critically endangered. The IUCN estimates that only 50 to 200 remain in the wild, but the population is stable. Its preferred habitat, rocky outcrops, have prevented human development from completely wiping it out.

The tree is semi-evergreen and grows to about six or seven feet tall. Not much else is known about the rare oak besides its history: It was reportedly discovered in Texas, where the population has since been extirpated, and now occurs only in Alabama.

12
of 13

Catalina Mahogany (Cercocarpus traskiae)

Close-up of a flowering twig of the Cercocarpus traskiae

John Rusk / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0

This small tree is endemic to Catalina Island with only one single population remaining in the wild. The IUCN lists it as critically endangered. Only six pure Catalina mahoganies remain in the wild. They're monitored closely by the Catalina Island Conservancy, which calls the tree one of the rarest in the U.S.

But conservation efforts have momentum, the conservancy says. Researchers found that this plant was not successfully reproducing, so the island fenced in the plants to protect them from hungry animals. Each summer, biologists assess the trees' health, look for fungus or insect damage, track growth patterns, and measure fruit production.

13
of 13

Virginia Round-Leaf Birch (Betula uber)

Golden leaves of the Virginia round-leaf birch in autumn

Jean-Pol GRANDMONT / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 3.0

Found only in—you guessed it—Virginia, this critically endangered tree was believed previously to be extinct. However, according to the IUCN, it was rediscovered along Cressy Creek in 1975 and is now "found in highly disturbed second-growth forest" along a tiny stretch of the river in Smyth County. In 2020, only one Virginia round-leaf birch remained.

Virginia round-leaf birch trees have dark green leaves and produce catkins up to 2.5 inches long. Though the trunks are slim, they can grow up to 60 feet tall, according to Virginia Tech's Department of Forest Research and Environmental Conservation.

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